A key to the Realm of Language (2007)
From Catalogue "photogramma : deixis of index"
ABE Hinako, Poet

Ordinary weather forecast messages; lines like scratches; holey random number tables; and chains of sequential line graphs all over the place... Now what am I supposed to do with these? Read? No way, that's nothing readable. The more I try to decipher them, the more meanings slough off from each word, each sentence, each number - just like texts that fall into meaningless right after being read.

In real life, too, I am threatened by infinitely repeated weather forecasts. Since having moved in with my Parkinsonian mother about one year ago, I've been updated several times a day about the weather today, the weather tomorrow, the weather this week, the weather in other parts of the country... "Today it's rainy in the morning, but it's going to clear up and get much warmer in the afternoon." "Tomorrow it will be cold, and the highest temperature will be about eight degrees below average." "A typhoon is approaching and will be hitting Kyushu around Sunday." "While temperatures in Siena are crossing the 40 degrees mark, only 15 degrees in New York force people to wear coats outside." Unable to move, my mother spends her time scanning the newspaper on a sofa in front of the TV. Both newspapers and TV programs overflow with comments on world affairs and internal-political issues, but for my mother those are generally too difficult to follow. The only topic she is well familiar with, and that doesn't even loose its newness thanks to the daily updates, is the weather. "Familiar" does of course not mean that my mother knows anything about atmospheric pressure or other meteorological phenomena. Every bit of information she shares about the weather - in a muffled voice that makes her babbling hard to understand - is borrowed exclusively from TV and papers.

I sometimes catch myself thinking such mean things as, "You're stuck in here anyway, so tomorrow's weather is none of your bloody business!" while dodging my mother's indefatigable mussitations. One day it dawned on me if it was Beckett where I'd seen this kind of situation before. My mother is like Winnie, just that the mound she's being buried in isn't visible. She often draws in her horns and laments that she "can't do anything more" and that "it's all over", but it usually takes just a few minutes until she comes back to life and suddenly finds "everything so wonderful, so marvelous!" Winnie is the protagonist in "Happy Days", who keeps delivering empty phrases interlaced with repetitions and quotations. My mother is like Winnie without a gun, while I myself with my strings of halfhearted answers am much more heartless and overbearing a listener than Willie is in the play. Winnie's is the same sort of senseless drivel and quite incongruous with the actual situation, so I really do wonder why her lines sound like poetry to me, while all that my mother's weathercasts give me is annoyance... Let's begin by crediting Winnie's poetry to the style of her speech. It surely is stereotyped, sentimental and patchworked, but the way she connects or disconnects single words is full of wit and melancholy, which produces a flaring glimmer of the life that is about to burn out. It is in the style and tone of Winnie's monologues that the viewer can perceive that glimmer. The more her lines lose their meanings and drift off and away from reality, the more the viewer gets moved by the vocabulary, tone and style, and the courage of Winnie as she continues to swallow the emptiness and fight her hopeless fight. Mother's weather forecasts, on the other hand, are nothing but hearsay statements of mere assumptions she happened to pick up, so one could say they're sub-subjunctive in a way. It's the fact that she totally eliminates herself in comments beginning with something like, "They said that there could probably be...", that jangles my nerves.

How about delivering a weather report in the dazzlingly narrative style of the lines that open Musil's "Man Without Qualities", for example? "A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly direction. The isotherms and isotheres were functioning as they should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual mean temperature, to the temperature of the coldest as well as the warmest months and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun, the moon, the phases of the moon, of Venus, of the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapour in the air was at its maximal state of tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that characterizes the facts fairly accurately, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a fine day in August 1913." On his pursuit of a sense of possibility, Musil jumps onto the low-pressure drift and swirls counter-clockwise across the ocean. These first lines of the novel raise the reader's expectations of the things to come. I am well aware that Musil is quite a far-fetched reference in respect to my mother's talk, but being haunted by entirely second-hand stories makes it impossible for me to control my resentment against my mother's speech. It's such a pity that this had to happen to her who up to just a decade ago used to bore me and my brother with her ravenous critical faculties and sharp-tongued remarks.

So here I am now, challenging the "Quantum Poems" that came to me in several emails, and somehow I feel strangely at home. Not that these aren't full of repetitions and quotations, but they are miles away from being rehashed stories. First of all, they have style. Even though they don't make much sense, they have the style, format and technique that clearly identify them as products in the realm of language. At the same time, the convenience of not having to decode meanings invites the reader to let his or her mind wander while gazing at the poems. Released from the gravity of meaning, I unlock the door to the vast realm of language, enter, and roam about it with a spring in my step. I can see the little weather house in which my mother, small as a bird, lives now, and from afar I can hear Winnie sing a tune from "The Merry Widow" from inside her dome-shaped mound. Further in the back I notice the vague contours of Ulrich and Agathe as they lie in deckchairs in the garden, and talk about the diversity of green under the brilliant rays of the early summer sun. I see larks circling high above my head, and Canterbury bells beneath my feet. The wind shows me the way.

to Article